Bank secrecy in Singapore

I've always wondered if government tax departments like HMRC or the IRS could pry into my personal or business bank accounts. Just to make sure company returns (reports) were accurate and if I'm paying the right tax.

Obviously this would be a huge privacy infringement if they could without "probable cause" or warrant. It would be just as invasive as being able to read my email. With stronger metadata to show where I am and my "capabilities" (my money!) if you will.

Now after chatting to an anonymous accountant, he's informed me since 2009 US & European banks by order of their governments have made every transaction trace-able. Why? Strict anti-money laundering, "War on terror" and recent efforts of clamping down on the unscrupulous practices of the banking industry (it's government money that bailed out the banks after all).

Now I've yet to see Snowden-esque concrete proof of this privacy infringement of Western governments viewing Western bank accounts claim. Though I find it shocking if true.

Furthermore, I'm told that Singapore does not participate in this dragnet and therefore there is private banking in Singapore, and this is why it's such a popular financial hub. Again, I've yet to find proof that this is true.

Even if there was private banking in Singapore, I'm told that in order to do business with US banks you must release data (what that is exactly, I don't know). Therefore even if you had your banking privacy, the minute you interact with an US/EU the bank, your privacy might have to be given up by your bank!

Most people I've spoken to involved in the financial industry are resigned ("it's hopeless!"), or take the "I've got nothing to hide" argument or complain that people are just zombies and won't understand the grave consequences until too late.

Nonetheless I'm writing the blog in the hope that people can hopefully gather evidence and information about these banking privacy violations. Right now it's hearsay on my part. I like to think that if a country like Singapore came out and affirmed that it respects the privacy of business in their country, then it would make it an even more attractive place to do business in.

Sidenote: I had the thought that maybe everyone's financials dealings should be public, like Tax records IIUC in Norway. This transparency would catch out corruption, however I can't help but feel it doesn't really solve the problem of having checks and balances between a state and its people. Ultimately governments (although largely incompetent & susceptible to leaks) control the information flow and that's far too much power in one place.

Update: I've since discovered this topic is called "Bank Secrecy". I've changed the name of the blog from "Private banking in Singapore", which means something different: an arrangement with a bank where you are given personal care of your financial assets.

Update: I've heard that if the Singapore government was interested in your Singapore hosted account, your account details would be handed over in a flash. That seems to be the case around the world. So I guess my general take away about the world banking system is that if you want your privacy, you need to host it in a country you have nothing to do with, one that doesn't see you as a threat to their local affairs. This is why Singapore is a pretty popular choice for foreigners and neighbours!


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